Paleo diet helps push venison prices to record highs
A drop in the number of deer being processed and the increasing popularity of the paleo diet pushes venison prices to record highs.
Prices have increased steadily in the last two years and hit an all-time June high of $9 a kilogram, carcase weight, for quality stags.
With venison prices traditionally peaking in spring in response to demand game meat markets in Europe, the upward trend is likely to continue in coming months.
Deer Industry New Zealand chief executive Dan Coup said a big drop in the number of deer being processed had played a big part in strengthening prices but that other important factors were at work.
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"Whether it's the emergence of paleo diets, new culinary trends, or the new enthusiasm in Europe for summer barbecues, our farm-raised venison looks like the right product for the times," he said.
"The United States is now the single largest market for venison, having overtaken Germany. This means the industry now has strong export markets in two of the world's major currency zones."
The US replaced Germany as the largest market for New Zealand chilled-venison exports in 2014. Most of the venison was being directed to the restaurant trade, where it appeared US diners hurting from the global financial crisis were moving away from fast food outlets and diners to better restaurants.
Chefs and consumers were now also making ethical purchasing decisions, DINZ venison marketing manager Marianne Wilson said. They liked the fact NZ venison was pasture-raised and grown naturally, without hormones.
Jan Kunz of Luiten Foods, partner in a Cervena venison marketing trial in the Netherlands and Belgium, said he sold 20,000 kilograms last summer, a novel time of the year to sell venison in Europe.
This trial is part of Passion2Profit (P2P), a Primary Growth Partnership Programme between the deer industry and the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Wilson said the trial, now in its third year, was helping chefs and their diners see Cervena was 'now in season' in summer.
"The fact that Tui Airlines, the second biggest Belgian-based airline, has put Cervena on its summer menu for business class is a strong example of this."
Wilson said affluent consumers in Europe and the US were eating out more at premium casual restaurants where small and shared plates were fashionable.
"This style of eating with less formality is good news for New Zealand venison and Cervena, as there is less risk for the consumer if they are trying something novel like a summer Cervena dish for the first time. It encourages experimentation."
The rise of paleo-style diets also favoured venison, Wilson said.
"High quality protein produced ethically is important to people following this way of eating and they are willing to pay for it."
Growing sales of venison into new market segments, outside the traditional game season, had increased year-round sales of venison which is helping to flatten out seasonal variations in prices to farmers.
With venison production at its lowest in 20 years and less than half the level it reached 10 years ago, some may question why the industry is putting so much energy into promotion.
"With farmers rebuilding their breeding herds, there will inevitably be an increase in venison production in the not too distant future," says Coup.
"All the exporters involved in P2P are developing year-round markets, which we will need when the kill reaches 350,000, up from the 280,000 forecast for the current year. We could reach that level by 2019."